With the weight of the Academy Awards ‘slap’ hovering, and also, perhaps, audience expectations, Chris Rock started his show in a pensive mood stating upfront: “I’m OK, I just want you to know that.”

Through the loud cheers, Rock confessed how much the infamous slap hurt. It wasn’t the only time he mentioned it, letting the audience know it was on his mind.

Later, when talking about society being full of ‘victims’ he added: “I’m not a victim, even though I got hit by Ali.”

Delivered with disbelief and a modicum of anger, Rock worked his way through the incident and tried to make sense of a humiliating moment in his life.

At times, his confessional style felt like therapy.

Rock questioned Smith’s motive of protecting his wife Jada, and then admits: “I still can’t watch Men in Black.”

At times, his confessional style felt like therapy.

Further into the set, Rock told a story about how another man had knocked him out with a punch. Prompting a heckler to yell: “Was it Will Smith?”

Rock stopped his story to emphatically reply “No”.

He couldn’t ignore the shadow of Will Smith but appeared more at ease once he had addressed it. It also played to the everyman persona his act relies on.

Rock’s Ego Death World Tour started its first Sydney gig late, after airport-like security slowed guests arrival time to their seats.

People had to queue in a single line for up to an hour, before being instructed to turn their phones off and remove their smart watches, placing them in a bag that was locked by Aware Super Theatre staff. Men and women then formed separate lines before having a hand-held metal detector skim over them. Women could not have handbags or clutches that were larger than 30 centimetres in length and height.


Audience members at the concert had to give up their phones and were frisked with metal detectors. Photo: Lisa Edser.

Rock hit the stage for his 90 minute set in an all-white ensemble, of pants, T-shirt and loose open shirt. His only hint of superstardom was partially hidden under his shirt – a diamond encrusted Prince symbol hanging by a chunky platinum chain necklace. Rock seemed to struggle after talking about the slap, even muttering “what will I talk about?”. His contemplation eventually gave way, as he targeted Meghan Markle and her “complaining”.

He told the audience of at least 5,500 people he could not understand someone being surprised that the Royal Family were being racist, asking why she hadn’t Googled them as they are the “O.G. of racists”.

He circled back to her throughout the first half, with Markle providing a launch point to talk about many topics, such as the Kardashians.

Like all skilled comedians, he was more of a storyteller. He interweaved societal observations with his own real-life examples. And for many parts, he just talked about his life. Rock even shared he was due a vasectomy.

Nothing was off limits, as he discussed topics such as Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, companies trying to be politically correct, racism, the #metoo movement, rich kids, his cheating, monogamy, and how scared people are.

He often reminded the audience that he was pro-everything, including pro-trans.

He also wasn’t afraid to talk about current political issues in the United States, like abortion, but flipped the rhetoric to play the devil’s advocate. Rock loved to shock.

The one time he was ‘booed’, was when he mentioned he was pro-COVID vaccine, joking COVID didn’t kill enough famous celebrities.

Some of his best work were the moments of poignancy, with Rock reflecting on stage how far his family had come.

Rock, 57, teetered on the edge of sexism, when discussing gender equality and the pay gap. He told the audience that women will never compete in the work force as short and ugly men work the hardest out of everybody.

His delivery felt like he was sharing a revelation full of wisdom, but fell flat. Not reading the room, he lectured that a woman’s best asset is her beauty and that is the way the world is. I’m still waiting for the punch line.

But some of his best work were the moments of poignancy, with Rock reflecting on stage how far his family and blacks in America had come, telling how his mother was made to go to a vet if a black dentist was not available – she was not permitted to see a white one.

And that is what made Rock stand out in his story telling. He wasn’t afraid to show his humanness, vulnerabilities, and achievements alongside his overshares and self-depreciating humour. He gave a humble look into his life – even with his money, real estate, and lucrative work projects, he reminded the crowd he is just like us: “My pronoun is broke.”

Main image Canva montage of Simon_sees/Flickr and David Shankbone/Flickr.